Bob Costas, continuing to defend his TV commentary on gun violence last Sunday—in the wake of the pro footballer’s murder/suicide—under a storm of criticism took his case to the lion’s den tonight, visiting Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox.

Plus he has taped a segment for his own NBC sports show, airing Thursday night, with Charles Barkley and John McEnroe. Bill Carter of The New York Times reports:

Mr. Barkley said that owning and carrying guns were part of what he termed “black culture,” announcing on the show, “I carry a gun”—specifically, one in his car for last 20 years. Having that access to a gun, he said, makes him feel safer because “we jocks get robbed all the time.” He said, “I feel a sense of peace when I have it with me, but it would take extreme circumstances for me to even touch it.”

McEnroe, however, backed Costas’s alarm about such a defense. Sir Charles replied that it’s a black “crime culture” not a “gun culture” and he has to deal with being black “all the time.” Guns give him “a sense of peace.”  Says players get robbed all the time. (I would like to see documentation on this.)

McEnroe on carrying a gun: “I feel safer without it…. Too many scenarios” for things to go wrong.

Costas, in the segment (see video below) reports Jarvan Belcher, the man behind the murder-suicide that sparked all this talk, claimed to have eight guns.  (Note:  See my Nation colleague Dave Zirin's new interview with Costas.)

Under questioning by O’Reilly tonight, Costas repeated he is against “gun culture,” not the Second Amendment. Costas said “there could be more effective control on guns” in the US. Should be training programs for those who purchase guns. Also 40 percent of guns purchased without background check and that’s insane.

O’Reilly hit Costas for statement in his Sunday commentary that gun nuts foolishly wish folks were armed in that Aurora theater (site of massacre), to open fire like crazy. Costas, of course, defended his sensible view. Then he hit the “gun culture” again and cited Tony Dungy’s claim that sixty-five of eighty players he coached one year said they had a gun.  Costas said that since he spoke out he has heard from many players and others in the game saying far too many have guns.

O’Reilly was fairly polite and, in a classic moment, added, “So long as you call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree here, you’ll be fine.”  (Plus: See gun control debate on Piers Morgan’s CNN show tonight including Alan Dershowitz, Abby Huntsman and more.)

The Costas/Barkley/McEnroe segment:

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books on politics, history and media. His latest, on the Obama-Romney battle, is Tricks, Lies, and Videotape.

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